PRESDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa’s cabinet reshuffle last Friday, where he retained tired and incompetent ministers, including those tainted by corruption allegations, and assigned supposedly fresh minds to inessential deputy ministerial positions is a blunt display of uninspiring leadership.
BY ANDREW KUNAMBURA
The reshuffle, coming just 12 months into his five-year term, also makes nonsense of Mnangagwa’s cost-cutting measures and promises of a leaner cabinet after he expanded the executive, bringing in eight new faces who will be eligible for huge perks at the taxpayers’ expense.
Additionally, Mnangagwa has also been found wanting in terms of gender balance after he brought in only one female cabinet minister and three deputy ministers.
Following the recent appointments, only six of the 25 (24%) cabinet ministers and four out of 18 (22%) deputy ministers are women. The reshuffle is clear testimony that Mnangagwa, eager to revive a crumbling economy and manage internal party and regional politics, has struggled to steady the ship amid raging torrents and violent waves.
But if the chief reason behind the move is economic recovery, then something is terribly amiss given the retention of deadwood. There are questions over the reassignment of the incompetent Home Affairs minister Cain Mathema, who has constantly been under fire for failing to make a difference in critical portfolios, including the police, births and deaths registration and passports.
He will now superintend over the affairs of another very critical ministry: Primary and Secondary Education.
Another case is that of Kazembe Kazembe, who was moved from the ITC ministry to Home Affairs. As ICT minister, Kazembe was uninspiring.
Kazembe was replaced by his former deputy Jenfan Muswere, who courted controversy this week after a file video of him displaying ignorance of artificial intelligence during an interview at an artificial intelligence conference in Geneva, Switzerland, was shared on social media.
“His promotion to head up this crucial ministry clearly tells that President ED doesn’t know the importance of technology or that he doesn’t care or both. Muswere should not be anywhere near his position. Here is a video of Muswere being interviewed about AI at the AI for Good Conference in Geneva. It will make you look for a rock to crawl under. What did we ever do to deserve this,” Tinashe Nyahasha, one of the people who shared the video on Twitter wrote.
There is also growing concern over the creation of new ministries and appointment of more junior ministers who, being entitled to brand new luxury vehicles, state aides and plush benefits, do not come cheap.
The new appointees who will get new ministerial vehicles include Makoni West legislator and Muswere and Daniel Garwe who was appointed to head the newly created National Housing and Social Amenities ministries.
Mnangagwa also appointed Marian Chombo (Local Government deputy minister), David Musabayana (Foreign Affairs deputy minister), Dingumuzi Phuti (ICT deputy minister) and Raymore Machingura (Higher and Tertiary Education deputy minister and Clemence Chiduwa (Finance deputy minister).
Many believe Chiduwa, a technocrat, is being wasted as a deputy minister given that the position is largely ineffective and useless despite coming with good perks.
Tino Machakaire, who was earlier this year accused of engaging in corrupt activities by some Zanu PF youths, was appointed deputy minister in the Ministry of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation.
Already, government has spent US$16 million on luxury off-road vehicles for MPs and ministers at a time the nearly bankrupt administration has been struggling to bankroll a string of critical services, including health care and paying an increasingly restive and bloated civil service that is gobbling up more than 80% of the government budget.
“It now looks like when the President said his government was relaxing austerity measures last week on the pretext that they had achieved their purpose, he was preparing an excuse for adding more ministers. This will translate to higher government expenditure,” public policy expert Tawanda Zinyama said.
“They ought to take clues from countries like China. China is a huge economy and I think they have about 25 ministers or something like that. We have no economically‚ financially and politically understandable reason that you can have an executive that has so many people,” he added.
The reshuffle also drew fire from analysts who suggested it lacks the necessary regional balance after, for the first time since the 1987 Unity Accord which brought warring Zanu and Zapu parties together, the former Zapu side was left without any of the key security ministries.
This was after Cain Mathema was moved from Home Affairs to the Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare ministry.
The Unity Accord was signed between the two parties to end the Gukurahundi massacres in the Midlands and Matabeleland where the North Korean-trained 5th Brigade was accused of killing at least 20 000 people, mainly Zapu supporters.
Ibbo Mandaza, a political analyst and executive director of the Southern Africa Political Economy Series, said the Unity Accord no longer mattered to Zanu PF.
“They have since forgotten about that. They are now doing as they wish. There’s no more PF Zapu factor in Zanu PF. They are no longer following that norm,” he said.
The Women’s Academy for Leadership and Political Excellence (Walpe) described Mnangagwa’s cabinet reshuffle as a missed opportunity to comply with the constitution on gender equality.
The national charter mandates government to ensure equal representation of men and women in cabinet.
“Women’s Academy for Leadership and Political Excellence (Walpe) notes with concern the lack of gender balance in key government positions following the appointments of permanent secretaries and the cabinet reshuffle on 06 and 08 November 2019 respectively by President Emmerson Mnangagwa. Section 17 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe specifically demands gender balance, stating that the State must promote full gender balance in Zimbabwean society. These provisions apply to positions in all institutions set up under the constitution including cabinet. Thus the failure to appoint equal numbers of men and women into cabinet and permanent secretary positions violates the spirit and letter of the constitution,” the organisation said in a statement emailed to the Zimbabwe Independent on Tuesday.